Company says plan for casino in cyberspace doesn't break the law, but some observers wouldn't put money on it. Bloomberg Business News

ST. MAARTEN, Netherlands Antilles -- It's a gamble, but a company called Internet Casinos Inc. plans to launch a casino on the Internet.

The company intends to begin providing casino games, entertainment and sports betting over the global computer network beginning May 15 from its base in St. Maarten.

Internet Casinos, which is incorporated in Nassau, Bahamas, thinks it won't run afoul of U.S. state and federal laws prohibiting the placing of wagers across state lines and through the country's communications networks.

``Because we're completely offshore, we eliminate all that nonsense,'' said Warren Eugene, Internet Casinos's 33-year-old founder and president.

U.S. laws clearly forbid people from accepting wagers from abroad on U.S. soil, Eugene said. The law doesn't specifically prevent people from placing wagers and transferring money to gamble in a casino offshore, just as it doesn't prohibit people from traveling to the Caribbean to gamble, he said.

Others remain skeptical that the Canadian entrepreneur will get very far before attracting the attention of law enforcement agencies. Guy Michael, an attorney specializing in gambling law, said he suspected the U.S. Justice Department would investigate an operation like Internet Casino.

He also said, however, that it isn't clear whether wagers placed from the United States to offshore locations are legal or illegal. ``The technology is a little bit ahead of the law here,'' he said.

Eugene said it's legal in the Antilles for Internet Casino to accept bets from the United States. He conceded, however, that U.S. citizens may be in ``a very gray area'' if they place wagers offshore from their home phones and computers.

Under Internet Casino's system, gamblers will first establish an account with a minimum of $50, sent either by wire transfer or mail or paid over the phone by credit card, Eugene said. Winning bets also would be paid through a wire transfer, he said.

To view Internet Casino's home page on the World Wide Web, turn your Web browser tohttp:// www.casino.org/cc.

--What do you think about gambling on the Net? Voice your opinion. Use keyword: MC Talk, select Browse Boards, then Tech Talk, then Internet / Online Services folder. Or, choose Letters for Publication in the scrolling window.

Published 3/16/95 in the San Jose Mercury News.

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